Health Information And Technology Degree Programs

Health information technology covers a wide range of careers within the fields of medical records keeping, medical coding and information technology within a hospital or physician's office setting.

Health information technology educational programs provide students with the skills needed to work as technicians and coders, which eventually may lead to careers working in more technical positions such as health or nursing informatics, cancer registrar or health care information technology.

Health information and technology degree programs

Programs offered at the community college level typically culminate in an associate of applied science degree in health information technology. Associate's level programs usually take four full semesters to complete and can be either campus-based, online or a blend of both. Students who wish to further their education -- often a prerequisite for more technical jobs within the field of health information technology -- can advance their careers by completing a bachelor's degree program in technical or health information management.

Earning a degree in health information technology is crucial to landing a job in the field as well as for advancement, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) reports, since employers typically prefer to hire job candidates that possess key professional certifications such as Registered Health Information Technician or Certified Coding Specialist. Those certifications and others can only be obtained after successful completion of accredited health information and technology degree programs.

Health information technology coursework and training

Study in health information technology covers a wide range of coursework that includes study in the following areas:

  • Medical terminology
  • Introduction to health information technology
  • Computer applications and software
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Legal and ethic concerns of health information
  • Medical coding
  • Health care statistics and reporting

Coursework introduces the various medical and anatomical terminology students can expect to encounter on a daily basis, as well as classifications of medications and the many abbreviations and acronyms used in medical terminology. Students also can expect to learn about the history and organizational structure of U.S. health care systems and new directions and initiatives in health care, such as electronic health records. Students who graduate from accredited health information and technology degree programs can expect to have a solid understanding of their ethical, legal and regulatory obligations in regards to tracking and recording sensitive patient data, as well as a strong foundation in insurance reimbursement and payment methods.

Health information technology career outlook and salary expectations

The majority of employees working in health information technology are employed as either health information technicians or medical coders. Using classification systems software, medical coders assign codes to medical diagnoses and procedures, which are used by insurance companies to determine financial reimbursement. Health information technicians use electronic health recording software to manage and organize a wide variety of health information data that's analyzed to improve health care delivery practices and health care information. Technicians strive to ensure complete accuracy and total security with sensitive patient data, and those with higher levels of competency oftentimes work to improve medical recording software and health information networks, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), there were 180,760 medical records and health information technicians working in May of 2013, with national median annual wages of $34,970. The top 10 percent of health information technicians, however, earned more than $57,000 annually, the BLS reports. More than two-thirds of workers in the field were employed at hospitals or physicians offices.

Populous states such as Texas, California, Florida and New York were the leading employers of health information technicians and medical coders. Accordingly, large metropolitan regions such as Greater Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and New York City also were among the largest employment centers.

Demand for medical records and health information technicians is expected to rise by 22 percent from 2012 through 2022, the BLS notes. That's double the rate for all professions combined. Job growth is expected to come mainly from waves of aging Baby Boomers seeking more medical services and treatments. The widespread use of electronic health records by more and more healthcare providers also is expected to create new positions in the field.

Another rising area in health information technology is for cancer registrars to assign classification codes to diagnoses and treatment of various forms of cancer, the BLS notes. Job prospects in all fields of health information technology should be strongest for candidates who possess certifications in their specialty and have extensive computers skills.

Sources:

Careers in Health Information, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.hrsa.gov/healthit/workforce/careers.html

Health Information Technology Degree Program, DeVry University, www.devry.edu/degree-programs/college-health-sciences/health-information-technology-about.html

Health Information Technology, Regents Online Campus Collaborative, www.rodp.org/degree-programs-courses/associates/health-information-technology

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, www.bls.gov/oes/CURRENT/oes292071.htm

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